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Daily Answer Writing And Mentorship Program

29-08-2023

Q: Discuss the evolution of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and its importance for developmental projects in India. Also, provide a critical assessment of the draft EIA 2020 notification on environmental protection measures in India. (15 Marks, 250 Words)

 

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As per UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to identify the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a project to decision-making.

Reasons for importance of EIA for developmental projects:
· Environmental Protection and Conservation: EIA identifies and assesses potential environmental impacts aiding in project design and implementation to minimize adverse effects on ecosystems and biodiversity.
· Sustainable Resource Management: EIA promotes the efficient and sustainable use of natural resources, such as water, land, minerals, and energy, in developmental projects.
· Mitigation of Environmental Impacts: It ensures that projects incorporate pollution control measures, waste management plans, and measures to mitigate habitat loss and ecological disruption.
· Social and Community Considerations: EIA acknowledges the significance of social aspects, assessing potential impacts on communities, livelihoods, and local infrastructure.
· Legal Compliance and Regulatory Framework: EIA is mandatory in India for developmental projects ensuring compliance and providing a transparent framework for project approvals.
· Sustainability and Long-Term Benefits: EIA ensures project sustainability, minimizing risks, disruptions disputes, and reputational damage through environmental considerations and impact mitigation.

Difference between EIA, 2006 and Draft EIA, 2020:

 

EIA 2006

Draft EIA 2020

Categorization
of Projects

The 2006 notification classified projects
into two categories: Category A and
Category B. Category A projects required
mandatory EIA, while Category B projects
underwent screening to determine if an
EIA was necessary.

The draft notification introduced a new
categorization system. It divided projects
into three categories: Category A,
Category B1, and Category B2. Category A
projects require national-level EIA,
Category B1 projects require state-level
EIA, and Category B2 projects are exempt
from EIA.

Exemptions

The 2006 notification did not provide
explicit exemptions for any specific
projects.

The draft notification introduced
exemptions for certain projects. It
exempted several activities, such as
defense and security-related projects,
inland waterways, and some expansion
projects, from the mandatory EIA
process.

Public
Consultation

The 2006 notification required a
minimum of 30 days for public
consultation for Category A projects and
45 days for Category B projects. Public
hearings were mandatory for specific
projects.

The draft notification reduced the
minimum time frame for public
consultation to 20 days for Category A
projects and 30 days for Category B1
projects. It also exempted several projects
from the requirement of public hearings.

Post-Facto
Clearance

The 2006 notification did not explicitly
address the issue of post-facto clearance
for projects that had started without
obtaining prior environmental clearance.

The draft notification introduced
provisions for post-facto clearance. It
allowed projects that had commenced
without prior clearance to retrospectively
seek approval.

Online
Submission

The 2006 notification did not specifically
address online submission of project
documents or online monitoring.

The draft notification emphasized online
submission of project documents and
introduced provisions for online
monitoring and compliance reports.

 Critical Analysis of Draft EIA 2020 notification:
· Weakening of Environmental Safeguards: The Draft EIA Notification 2020 introduces exemptions that may  
allow certain projects to bypass the EIA process.
· Limited Public Participation: Shortened public consultation time frames in the Draft EIA Notification 2020
limit meaningful engagement and hinder diverse perspectives.
· Excessive Centralization of Power: Critics argue that the Draft EIA Notification 2020 centralizes power with
the central government, diminishing the role of state governments in project categorization and scrutiny.
· Weaknesses in Compliance and Enforcement: Concerns have been raised regarding the Draft EIA
Notification 2020’s inadequate monitoring, compliance, and enforcement mechanisms, risking environmental
impacts and public trust erosion.
· Inadequate Consideration of Climate Change: The Draft EIA Notification 2020 lacks explicit provisions for
assessing projects’ greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on climate change, attracting criticism.

Suggestions:
· Strengthen Environmental Safeguards: Reinstate the environmental safeguards present in the EIA 2006
notification to ensure rigorous assessment of potential environmental impacts.
· Enhance Public Participation: Increase the time frame for public consultation to allow sufficient opportunity
for meaningful engagement and participation by affected communities and stakeholders.
· Incorporate Climate Change Considerations: Include explicit provisions for assessing the climate change
impact of projects and their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
· Promote Sustainable Development: Integrate sustainable development principles, promoting resource
efficiency, waste management, renewable energy, and biodiversity conservation in project design and
implementation.

To balance ease of doing business and environmental sustainability, an Independent EIA Authority can be established,
along with a centralized data bank for transparent project information access.